Dear Malaysia, I should be the poster girl for gay rights.
I would be, except I live and am writing this open letter to Malaysians from a proverbial closet. Not because I am ashamed of who I am, but because I, along with many others, have no desire to be treated differently by people who fear what they do not understand.
Before I continue you should know that I could be your friend or your daughter: I’m in my early twenties, based in Australia for higher education – vague, but I bet a few people you know just came into mind, right?
I was, like most, mortified when news of the Education system’s ‘Gaydar Guide for Parents’ hit the papers, along with the ignorant (though largely supportive) responses against the damage it would cause.
Some teachers and families would like to delude themselves into saying “this is not an Asian value” – I assure you it has nothing to do with values. It has nothing to do with upbringing, the influence of friends, the internet or TV shows. There isn’t a sign-up sheet or a secret club, it is not a form of mental illness, ‘kena rasuk’ (possessed) or the result of a lack of traditional values.
Before any preconceptions are made, know that I was born and raised in a Roman Catholic family to two very loving parents with two elder siblings, a sister and a brother, both of whom I love and respect as much as my folks.
I’m educated to the point of being in the top 1 percent of my university, and until I was in my late teens – I had never had a ‘gay friend’ or known anything too much about gay people other than the fact that they existed.
It was only when I developed romantic feelings for a schoolmate that I realised my destiny had in a way shot me in the foot in this race of life: it was not something I could grow out of or make go away (and believe me, I tried and have since come to terms with).
The feelings of shame, denial, self-loathing and suicidal tendencies of anyone in my place, young or old, is not because we feel ‘it is wrong’ – but because the weight of judgement and negativity that emanates from our heterosexual friends, families, co-workers and strangers is psychologically damaging. I still physically flinch when someone yells across the room, “That’s so gay!”
To feel the world thinks of you as defective is enough to make most people live in silence, and adopt a separate persona, as I have (unhealthily) learned to do for the time being; all the while going to sleep at night clinging to the small hope that one day I will meet someone: the right girl, and have a chance for the sort of happiness you hear every day on the radio through a cheesy Taylor Swift song, or have read about in fairy tales.
My place of worship encouraged people who were ‘”born that way’ to lead abstinent, solitary lives. I don’t believe God would give me the ability to love monogamously only to want me to never experience human warmth and affection, of which we all crave and need.
For a bunch of people with ‘Asian values’ though, I have to say hearing people discuss the sexual nature of homosexuality is distasteful as it is crude, and I have heard the argument that heterosexuality is “right because it leads to reproduction” enough to feel that such people who make that argument are better off being animals if they are so ruled by primal instinct.
Love, companionship, trust – these are the factors that draw two people together; at least it was for me.
This issue has come into the limelight of Malaysia for its 15 minutes of fame due to politics and a cheap shot at winning voters, but I assure you this is a conversation topic more Malaysians need to start having: Whatever your race or religion (and I say this even as I know it falls onto some deaf ears) your children need you.
They need to know they’re special. They need to know they’re loved. They need to know God made them just as they are, and that they have a chance for a happy, normal life just as anyone else deserves.
If you can truly believe a child who ‘show signs’ of being gay is a sexual deviant and must be cured to save their soul from damnation and the ultimate destruction of society, I believe it is you who needs to make the appointment for a psychiatric evaluation (Hey there, MOE!).
This last address is a tip to all Malaysians – if someone comes ‘out’ to you; it is a privilege and possibly, one of the highest symbols of trust. Keep in mind it is never alright to ‘out’ someone else, in a secret you naively believe will be kept.
It will not, and you may lead to the destruction of someone else’s life: particularly if you have been given the trust of a fragile minor. They are looking to you for acceptance. It’s what we all want, gay or straight.
I hope this risqué expose has been enlightening, and not too offensive – you’ll pardon my cynicism, it developed as a coping mechanism of sorts against all the homophobia I have witnessed over the short course of my life within Malaysia.
Either way abandon your judgement and your hate, because at the very end of the day this is an issue of love – and all gods cast their vote for that, right?